Six-and-a-half months and 90 games after the start of the 1990-91 NBA season, the Utah Jazz are on the verge of their summer vacation. Trailing three games to one in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz find themselves one loss away from going to Sea World or the Grand Canyon.

"If the guys haven't already packed their bags and got their trucks ready to go, it isn't hopeless," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan as his team prepared to play Game 5 at Portland's Memorial Coliseum, where the Blazers have beaten the Jazz in 32 of their last 42 meetings (including playoffs).

"We're realistic — our backs are to the wall," said Utah guard Jeff Malone, who's averaged almost 21 points per game in the series.

Two of Utah's three defeats have been decided in the final three seconds when desperation shots went awry.

"Nothing can be any more discouraging ... all the 'ifs'," said Sloan. "How would you feel if you went out and didn't give your best effort and this team (Portland) goes ahead and wins the championship?"

Karl Malone has certainly been giving his best effort for the Jazz, averaging 30.1 points and 14 rebounds in the playoffs, while John Stockton has contributed a league-best 13.8 assists per game.